New app attempts to track COVID-19 in effort to reduce spread of infection

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Photo courtesy of Forbes

A tracking app can detect if you were or are near individuals who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. Apple and Google released a new software that is meant to prevent further spread of the virus.

Cindy Rojas, Writer

You are taking an afternoon walk out in the park when suddenly you hear a beep coming from your phone. “A person who has tested positive for Covid-19 is near.”

In April of this year, Apple and Google announced that they would be releasing a new software that is able to digitally alert people if they have come in contact with or are near someone who has tested positive for Covid-19. According to the CDC, as of November 10, the U.S. has over 10 million cases of Covid-19. Out of those 10 million positive results, over 847,000 cases are in Florida alone. 

As the virus continues to spread rapidly, Apple and Google have created new software in order to help prevent the spread or to at least minimize its effect.

The tracking system is able to notify people via Bluetooth if there are users who have tested positive for the virus near them. Over privacy concerns, the companies claim that the Bluetooth signals are secure and do not disclose the location of the user to others.

Once the app is able to detect a person with Covid-19, the app will immediately provide the user with instructions on what steps should be taken in order to prevent further expansion of the virus. Multiple states in the U.S. such as Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Virginia have already started to resort to these Covid-19 tracking apps. Although it is available in many states, it is currently unavailable in other states like Florida as it’s yet to be released by health authorities.

“If it was available in Florida, I would definitely use the app,” noted sophomore Mariana Gonzalez. “ I think this could be a great way to combat the pandemic.”

Although the app can detect people with the virus near you, there have been rising concerns about the effect and performance of this Covid-19 app. Many people either believe that it will decrease the diffusion of the virus or that it will not make much difference in the rising statistics. Others have expressed their concerns regarding security issues and whether it is an invasion of privacy on the user’s health records.

While some might believe that it is an invasion of health privacy laws (HIPAA), the app actually does not reveal the person’s name or their health history.  The user would simply be alerted that a person near them at one point just tested positive.  

A study made by Christophe Fraser at Oxford University revealed that with the help of the public’s participation in this new system, he estimates that the spread of Covid-19 could decrease by 15 percent with the assistance of the app.

The math is clear,” said Fraser. “The more people that use a contract tracing app the better chance we have of getting ahead of this epidemic and eventually stopping it in its tracks. If a country reduces the epidemic growth rate to below zero, the epidemic will rapidly decline and eventually stop.”

On the contrary, many believe it isn’t a privacy issue as devices are able to track and keep records of our activities already. 

“I personally believe that it is not an invasion of privacy,” said Giselle Pineda, a junior. “Considering that our phones already track everything we do.”

A vast majority believe that technology has already had a huge impact on society to where it is impossible to not be conscious of the fact that we are constantly being supervised by these devices. It has already become a norm to have technology keep records of our activities on a daily basis.

“I personally think that believing it is an invasion of privacy is a comfort illusion that people have in their minds,” continued Pineda. “Our phones and other types of technology already have had digital footprints and research of extensive knowledge on us.”

Despite several of these claims, Apple and Google have affirmed that their tracking software system will provide a solution while maintaining the user’s privacy and identity intact. They have stated that the system is only able to be accessed by health authorities and officials who have met the specific requirements. 

In the coming months, Apple and Google representatives have assured that they will be working on improving this alert tracking system in order for more people to participate in its use. Both have made clear that the tracking system will not be obligatory and that users are able to opt-out whenever they desire.